With a population close to 11 million, Brazil's (decidedly non-Rio) urban powerhouse blends the exuberance of South America with the poise and sophistication of old Europe.
Image – Raymond Patrick
DAY THREE You’ve saved one of the classic São Paulo neighborhoods for last: Jardim Paulista. You walk out of the hotel lobby and head for Avenida Europa (1), admiring the incredible townhouses (and the mouthwatering sedans at the local Aston Martin dealership). Sixty percent of Brazil’s millionaires live in Sampa, and this is their domain. Head over to Avenida Paulista and slip into the neighborhood’s gem, Trianon Park (2), a two-acre sanctuary that opened in 1892 and is thick with palm trees and sculpture. You stumble on an austere statue of a faun by the Italian-Brazilian modernist master Victor Brecheret, and sit on the wooden bench across the way to admire it. Young lovers on benches and retirees with their folded copies of the O Globo newspaper soak in the quiet.
You walk over to the mall and art space underneath Conjunto Nacional (3). Take a picture of the enormous statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, painstakingly created out of 2,000 empty Coke cans and 4,000 bottle caps by native artists Silvia Galvão and Sandro Rodrigues. This obvious yet good-natured dig at American capitalism, in the middle of a mall filled with American products, is touched with a subversive Sampa wit. Famished, you jump into a taxi and head to Chácara Santa Cecilio (4). This sprawling restaurant has the feel of a Brazilian farm- house: huge beams, a slate roof, enormous trees growing right through the floor and the smell of well-spiced meat in the air. As you chew a savory filet in a sweet sauce made from the fruit of the jaboticaba tree, you bask in the din of the exuberant crowd around you.
Image – Raymond Patrick
It’s time to shop. You pop into the eponymous store of cutting-edge local designer Adriana Degreas (5), who got her start in swimwear and now does highly Brazilian things like combine a short fur jacket with a black bikini. Spend the afternoon window-shopping at the other high- end shops clustered around Melo Alves, then head to Adega Santiago (6) and drink in the rustic splendor of the packed wood-oven restaurant with Brazilian jazz playing discreetly in the background. In need of a break from the beef-centric gastronomy of Brazil, you savor the excellent shredded codfish with eggs and roasted potatoes.
Recognizing that your time in Sampa would be incomplete without a proper night out, you grab a taxi back to the hotel, change into jeans and a white linen shirt, and pay a visit to Ó Do Borogodo (7), the premier club for partido alto samba or forró dance music. As you dance in the sweaty club packed with young people, you can’t help but think that São Paulo has grown rich and earned the status of a world-class powerhouse city— but without sacrificing its roots, its impish sense of humor, or, perhaps most important, its quintessentially Brazilian commitment to a good time.
STEPHAN TALTY‘s lone foray into soccer resulted in an immediate red card.